Tag Archives: Small Farm

Spring Cleaning…

Well, it’s been a long winter for us, and for the bees.  I took a quick peek into the hive in Duvall, and have lots of hope for the season!  I will need to feed them, but should be able to split them in April or May without any trouble!!


Summer is coming!!



Farm tools.


The right tool for the right job, right?  It was a stretch several years ago, to pick this tool up at a pawn shop, but we did it.  My dad said “you’ll never regret putting the extra money into a better chain saw”.  I dropped it off at one of the best Stihl repair places around, in Duvall, and they tweaked a few things, and rebuilt the diaphragm.  According to them it’s a strong runner, and should give me years of service.

We are a 5-7 chord a year house, and this workhorse is just right.  It’s a touch heaver than the newer models, but with the 30″ bar, I can stand up straight and buck trees without stooping.  Heaven.  I used it to drop two dead standing alders in the chicken yard a day or two ago, and felt compelled to share the little bit of wisdom in having the right tool for what you want to do.



Hope all your winter preps are moving along!



Pigs. The new bacon. (with video)

We have wanted pigs for at least four years. Two years ago, we could see how it would make sense, to have a couple of milk goats, and feed the extra milk to a pig (not to mention all the scrap veggies).  Last year farmer Adam was the one who shot it down, given that we only had one doe in milk and we weren’t sure how she was going to hold up. The economics make sense, even if we were to raise the pig on all store bought feed, but that’s not what we like to do (grow critters out on nothing but store bought feed that is…).
This year we have three does in milk, and all the cheese making in the world isn’t keeping up. So last week, after checking with a few folks who had mentioned that they might be interested, we bought two pigs. And we love them. They aren’t so sure about us though.

I’m fact, it was a little touch and go for a few minutes.  Farming is about learning, we we do a lot of that.  They ended up spending a few days in a more pig proof pen while they learned about hot wires.  It’s all good now, and they both know people often mean food, sometimes even marshmallows.


Too distracted by their new dirt to bother with the guy scratching their backs.


First time with dirt under their feet!


Thanks for the tasty food!

I don’t know what posses me to talk baby talk to animals.  It’s kind of creepy.


I hope it’s fun growing up on a farm.

Both my wife and I wished we had…  Instead we grew up reading Laura Ingalls, Sterling North, Period novels, Small Farmers Journal and the like.  I think really that’s why we are here.  For our kids, or at least, to live vicariously through them.  And to be closer to the food we grow, and for our kids to understand the connection with what is on our plate.  And because baby chicks and ducks, goat kids and piglets are so cute.  And the adult versions are so entertaining.

I like to hope our children have a more well rounded grasp of some of the biological systems than we did at their age.  An appreciation for their food, and for the hard work that goes into anything of value.  I know they get outside more than they would in the city, with the buffer of space around us, it seems like they can disappear into the grass and weeds all day, finding the hidden nest of the chicken that seems to never be in the chicken yard, caterpillars, snakes, and more bugs than you could shake a stick at.  Evening foot washing is as standard as brushing teeth.  And some of the toys they get to play in are nothing you’d find anywhere but on the farm….


The littlest farmer playing in between the end stacked round bales.


The Snake Wrangler.  She loves finding these guys, just like I remember doing when I was her age.  There are

way more of them around our place than where I grew up though.  Jealous.


Crispy Kale!

Happy 4th!  I thought you might all like to enjoy something cool now that we are in the throws of summer.  Yes, it was cold this winter.  Although we got away with no snow (much to the sadness of the two small bi-peds)  This was some of the kale that didn’t get incorporated into a salad, and now, it’s being turned into next year’s seed.  It’s a wonderful cycle, and makes my lack of attention to detail (getting all the old plants pulled up) look like smart planning.  It also seemed to fit the theme of the 4th of July.  Independence.  Freedom from others telling us what to eat, and how to live.  Nothing says ‘shove it up your nose’ to the big Ag conglomerate like saving your own seed.


I hope all you and yours have a fun and relaxing Independence Day!!


No poison here.

That’s right.  We haven’t used chemicals on our property.  Ever.  Nothing with a warning label (except for beer traps for slugs, but that was when we first moved in.  Now we have ducks)  I’d rather see things like the bright pink wash of wild geraniums under our deck, or the insects (our farm buzzes with life, and not just from the bees).  Even tent caterpillars are spared the toxic bath.  How do we deal with them you ask?  We pull weeds before they flower (if at all possible) squish things like tent caterpillars and aphids (bugs don’t like to hang out near squished friends) and tolerate a little more ‘English garden’ look about the place.  Do we ever worry when we see one of the kids with a piece of grass hanging out of their mouth?  No.  Our biggest worry with them, is that they will not wash the mud from their hands before picking the wild salmon berries…

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Thant last shot is of a branch that was fully engulfed by tent caterpillars this spring, nasty squishie squishie by yours truly, and there wasn’t another tent in the orchard.  The alders around the place though?  Badly mangled.  Farmer win.


Eggs on the farm.

Talk about holding the future in the palm of your hand… If another salmon had not riled up the gravel in the stream, this little thing could (with a lot of luck) have made it back here in a few years…  It’s been an epic Coho run this year.  All the reports say so, but all I have to do is step out on the back porch and listen.  It sounds like a water fight at the local pool.  Typically we see salmon in our creek from about Thanksgiving till now, but this year, they started rolling in about a month early, and they are still thick.  New ones showing up every couple of days to take the place of the ones that are spawned out and dying.  And getting hauled up on the bank to be munched on by other critters.  Yep, the lab figured that one out, and he’s now on a short leash.  Yuck.

I contemplated fishing REALLY close to home, but I have not seen one yet that was not a fire truck (full spawning color, and soft squishy flesh).  I was able to get a few out of the river before the river got high and wild with the winter rain.  I like a float trip as well as the next guy, but not in my waders, in November.

So back to the egg, salmon lay their eggs in redds, a spot in the gravel where the salmon lay on their sides, and thrash to clean the gravel, so their eggs don’t get smothered in the silt that’s on the bottom of the river.  Here’s a great overhead shot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Salmon_redds.jpg.  When they are pinched in a creek that’s only about 6′ wide, and stacking up like firewood, they will build redds on top of each other, and the later salmon will end up inadvertently kicking eggs out of redds as they clean a spot for their own eggs.  Makes me wonder if over time, the run will shift later in the year, as the fish pre-disposed to early spawning don’t have the high survival rate that the latecomers do.

Either way, it’s cool to be able to walk the kids (and adults too) back to see how it works.  Nothing like learning about everything from ecology, to biology, to physiology in your own back yard.  Even if it does stink.


Little nugget of life, found high and dry in a gravel bar, thanks to a neighbor hen’s redd making.


Firgus. Or, the stinky boy…

Here he is. Although you will probably smell him before you see him. Intact male goats are a bit stinky. Or a lot. But then you would be too, if you peed all over yourself. They also have a stronger ‘goaty’ smell, in part from the pheromones that help will all those non-verbal communications that help them figure out the ‘who, when and where’ of becoming a daddy goat.

I had sworn that we would never have a buck on our property.  They do smell, and badly.  However the prospect of hauling three does around the state, trying to catch the two or three day window of them being ‘open’ was not appealing.  Especially as that would have fallen to Farmer J.  With her two little ‘helpers’….  Not going to happen.

So we went shopping, and found Cuipu (the name he came with) down in Auburn.  He comes from RubyStarDairyGoats, from a great line of milkers.  The attempts that our three year old made at pronouncing “Cuipu” on the way home sealed his fate.  A name change was in order, for all our sakes.  Having just watched “Brave” the king Fergus kept coming around as an option…  Sticking with the floral theme, Firgus it was, and he now is.

Bee Swarm 2012.

Seems like about this time every year, I’ve gotten to catch a swarm.  This year it was from a hive I am ‘maintaining’ at a friends house about three miles away.  I say ‘maintaining’ because in theory, if they swarmed, I wasn’t doing my job very well.  But hey, they are Italian…  A dinner guest of theirs was able to shoot a video of me hiving the swarm.  Enjoy!!

Also, for the curious, I have been taking photos, and gardening, fairing, planing, mowing, milking and such at a rabid pace.  As things slow down after all the food is put up for the fall, I’ll get back to sharing ‘what I did on my summer vacation’.


The New Flower!

It really does take a village.  At least for this idiot it takes a village…

It’s normally a challenge for me to get anywhere on time, and as soon as I saw the goat yard last Friday the 27th I knew I was going to be late to work.  Normally when there is a light mist coming down everyone waits till they are really hungry to venture out of the loafing shed.  Until about two weeks ago, when I started dragging them out to pasture during the days.  The winter yard still had green grass, but they were more than keeping up with it’s growth, and we have other places where the grass is almost knee deep.  Also, I wanted to rest the winter yard as much as I could, for several non-obvious reasons.

So around the corner of the shed I came and looked inside.  There was Elouise, our newest Nubian with a little bably.  I don’t have much of a birth story, as the baby was mostly dry, and Elli was passing the afterbirth as I peeked in.  Literally, just as I was getting my eyes adjusted to slightly dimmer interior.  Good morning, did you have a healthy breakfast?  I talked to Elli for a minuite, and the baby was stumbling around like a drunken sailor.  I called farmer J on the phone…  “morning hon”  “what’s wrong?” “nothing, I just wondered if you would like to come out and meet our newest goat?.  Hello?  Are you there?” it was early enough that she didn’t quite have the hard drive spooled up and it was a funny second or two, before she allowed how she might just wonder out and meet her.  I had no idea that you could tuck a night gown into pants and pull on boots that fast.  Probably cause I’m a guy.

I had picked up the baby by the time farmer J came out, and the baby still had no idea who momma was, or what to do to take care of this hungry thing she had going on.  She was dry though, so I had to think that she might have had a little from momma.  We vacillated on our ‘dairy plan’ which had been to pull the babies, and milk Elli 2x a day.  But there was only one baby (we found out that for the last 5 years she’s thrown triplets).  We finally decided to follow through on our plan, as we wanted as friendly a baby as we could get.  We have a friend who breeds pygoras and bottle feeds the babies, and her goats are so sweet!!!  I milked Elli off (the milk/colostrum was like thin yogurt!!) and baby took about 11 oz.

I helped set up a bedding area for the baby, in the loafing shed where she had goat company, and a heat lamp, and rushed off for work.  Farmer J fed 8oz about 6 hours later, and then when I got home I tryed to milk again.  It had gone so well that morning, she had walked right up on the stanchen.  She hadn’t kicked.  She had been plesent.  Not now.  Have you ever tryed to pull a fire hydrant up a flight of stairs?  I have.  And I won, barely.  And it shamed me.  And I called out to my village.  “help, I’m an idiot, I thought I knew what I was doing, but this is the first time this has happened, please tell me I am at least doing one tiny thing right, cause I know I’m doing the rest wrong”.

And the village was kind.  Our friend Holly, who we have leaned on for Pygora information was quick with some tips on baby care, and suggested we get the baby ‘out of sight, smell and hearing’.  Done, in our barn/pantry/canned food storage area.  She’s protected from the weather, behind the locked door, with a window wide open for fresh air, and a heat lamp at night (cause she is alone).  We are feeding four times a day, and started with 8oz a feeding, and have moved up to 12 following the bottle feeding schedule on www.fiascofarm.com.  Daisy gets to come out and play two or three other times a day in addition to the feeding, and has decided that farmer J is her momma.  We are hoping we can put her back with the herd in another three weeks or so.

Elli had a change of heart as well.  After e-mailing with Emily at http://wildrootshomestead.blogspot.com/ we rigged some hobbles, and I started spending some non-milking time with Elli.  This morning she waked right up onto the stanchion all by herself.  Two days ago I had to pick her up and set her on it, she had kicked the milk bucket four times, the last time putting her foot in the middle of the bucket and then pulling it back, dumping about a quart of milk all over the stanchion.  I could have just about eaten her for dinner.

Although in the future we will probably leave the kids on the momma (ala Molly Nolte) and milk once a day, for now we are glad we went this rout this year.  We are only getting about half a gallon a day (4#) milking two times a day, which the folks we got her from said sounded right for her, given that she only had one kid.  They have a yearling who threw triplets, and they are getting a gallon a milking off of her (ouch!)

So after all that, here is Daisy.  Staying with the flower theme (sort of) we now have the alphabet covered from A to E, and the next goat born here will be a flower or plant starting with F…  That should be interesting.

Here she is in her personal private box stall, and in the (gasp) house for some rainy weather play time!


She gets no kisses, hugs or cuddles.  Ok.  Just a few.


I told her last night, that God willing she will live with us all her life.  Feed our family and be showered with love.  That we would care for her, and watch out for her well being, not because of what she represents for our family, but because she is simply trusted to us, for her care and nurturing.

(As a side note, I have bottle fed Daisy more in three days than both of my children combined.  After 11:30pm, 5:30 am comes early.)